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How do we invest in volunteers?

01/09/16

Volunteers play a crucial role in helping local Healthwatch reach as many people as possible in their community to find out their views. But recruiting and keeping volunteers is not always straightforward. Healthwatch Islington explains how they invest in those who donate their time.

Over 6,000 individuals across England give up their time to work with local Healthwatch, helping people to have their say on health and care  issues that affect them, their families and their communities. 

We spoke to Jeni Kent, Volunteer Co-ordinator from Healthwatch Islington to find out about their award winning approach to making the experience of volunteering as rewarding as possible for those who give up their time and for their local communities. 

What’s the secret to successfully recruiting and retaining volunteers?

We could not do the work that we do without our volunteers. They help us reach more people in our community, making sure that their views on local health and care services are sought and listened to.

We know that our volunteers are giving up their free time to work with us, so we work really hard to make sure that the time they invest with us is as rewarding as possible.   To do this, we try to follow three simple rules: 

  • Invest

    We try to offer people opportunities that match their skills and meet their interests. We invest in training our volunteers to help them in their role and in the future. This really pays off for them and us. For example, one of our volunteers recently became a care home manager, while our volunteer data analyst got a job as a statistician in central government

  • Motivate

    It’s important to remind volunteers about the difference they make to local people. We share their research with health and care organisations who have the power to bring about change. We regularly keep our volunteers up-to-date with any progress and promote their work online.
  • Celebrate

    We always make sure to thank and celebrate our volunteers for their hard work. Once a year we hold a special event to recognise their huge contributions.

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How has this helped the work that you do?

Our volunteers make a massive difference to our work. For example, they increase the amount of people we're able to speak to in our community. This means we get a better understanding of what is working well for people and what could be improved.

We trained a group of young adult volunteers to interview their peers from a range of backgrounds, about their mental health and the support services that they would find most useful. This research helped change the way that local mental health services for young people were being delivered. One volunteer was also asked to sit on the procurement panel that decided who would deliver these new services.

Volunteers also help us reach people who are isolated, who are often most in need of social care services. For example, one volunteer focuses on knocking on doors in the most disadvantaged estates in the borough.

The simple truth is that we could not do what we do without our volunteers. That’s why we invest in them as much as we can, remind them of the difference they make and celebrate their work. 


 How else is local Healthwatch making an impact?

 Find out more about the work local Healthwatch do to help health and care services improve.  

Download ‘Making your voice count’ 


Are you interesting in volunteering?

If you’re interested in giving up some of your free time to help improve local health and care services, get in touch with your local Healthwatch to find out about the opportunities available.

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